Gardening in Times of Stress

HGS Horticultural Society Flower show 2019 .
Freya Beedle & Orla Mendez(both 8yrs) miniature gardens

HGS Horticultural Society Flower show 2019 . Freya Beedle & Orla Mendez(both 8yrs) miniature gardens on a dinner plate - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Can’t get hold of what you need for spring planting? The Ham&High’s resident expert has some suggestions of where to go and how to keep children engaged in gardening

Gardening is in the news, there’s no end of advice about it and the lockdown, but here’s some more.

A friend working from home with two daughters in attendance asked me what had gone down well in the primary school gardening club I used to run. She and her girls are already into seed sowing, so I thought of what else the children had enjoyed.

First, they loved being out of doors (alas, now, for those in flats).

We gathered inside but the moment they were in the garden they were off, running around, looking in the pond, checking for changes since last week, just happy to be there. After a call to order, we would get started. Our programme was influenced by the Highgate Horticultural Society Flower Show schedules, planting bulbs in autumn for the spring show, sowing flower seeds and nurturing them for the show in July.

One of the favourite activities was making miniature gardens for the summer show.

The lovely, more recent, examples in the photo (from Hampstead Garden Suburb Show) rely on freshly picked material, but that would not have worked for our club because of timing.

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So we started a fortnight ahead, allowing cress seed to grow into trees, or uprooted grass to recover, or for items like miniature paper umbrellas, beads or mirrors to be brought in from home. The way some of them concentrated on these creations was touching. Making miniature gardens works in or out of doors, and adults like doing them, too.

Other things the children enjoyed and could be done at home were looking for and identifying flowers/trees/weeds, tasting (chives and raspberries very popular) picking flowers, discovering where our plants come from, drawing, planting out, watering, finding “minibeasts”, putting stuff on the compost heap and even, under duress, collecting and cleaning the tools.

They also liked getting prizes and certificates from the Flower Shows. I overheard one advising a friend to join the club, saying, “It’s good, you get prizes”.

And there was me, hoping they would come to love gardening for its own sake.…

I’ve been researching where we can still get garden supplies:

Camden Garden Centre is starting up a limited delivery service of plants, seeds, compost, but the plants are in a range of packs, the remaining staff are too stretched to pick out individual items. For details, email

Finchley Nurseries Garden Centre says “we are arranging collection (without leaving your car) for certain items”. Contact by emailing

Sunshine Garden Centre has a friendly message on its website.

Alexandra Palace and Boma Garden Centres do not appear to be doing deliveries.

These two nurseries would have been at the (cancelled) Plant Heritage Sale in Highgate:

Rose Cottage Plants are sending out dahlia orders but will then make available all the plants they would have sold at cancelled shows. Check their website,

The Plant Specialist will deliver near Gt Missenden or you can collect orders - tricky for Londoners. email

Finally, KEEP WELL.